Lawsuits have been filed over hatcheries on Washington’s Elwha River, where dams were recently decommissioned, and hatcheries on Oregon’s McKenzie River and Sandy River in the Columbia Basin, reports Interpress Service.
The lawsuits cite the Endangered Species Act, compelling the courts to change how hatcheries are utilized, said the news agency.
Built in 1909, Bonneville Fish Hatchery is one of the oldest and largest in the Columbia River Basin, located in the US Pacific Northwest.
The hatchery annually produces over 11 million young fall Chinook salmon, three million coho eggs and 500,000 young steelhead for a number of rivers in the basin as part of an agreement under the 1938 Mitchell Act.
Yet some critics believe that hatcheries represent yet another threat to wild salmon.
In 2007, the century-old 22-megawatt Bull Run Hydropower project was decommissioned to support restoration of the Sandy River, but the Native Fish Society says Sandy River hatchery salmon supplied by the Bonneville site out-compete wild fish.
Bill Bakke, director of science and conservation for the Native Fish Society, told IPS the NOAA government fisheries “don’t have a conservation mission. They are producing a huge amount of fish.”
According to a March 14 ruling, the lawsuit resulted in reducing Sandy hatchery releases from one million down to almost 500,000 fish, short of the target but a partial victory.